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The Human Biology, Ecology and Evolution Program is interested in the relationships between culture, behavior, and environment and their impacts on health and well-being. This focus is crucial in light of accelerating ecological, economic and socio-political changes such as globalization, market integration and climate change. We ask, for instance, what are the impacts of changing environments on human health, biology and behavior across the lifespan? What factors can foster or undermine ecological and cultural resilience?   How do evolutionary and ecological processes shape human variation in the past and present?

We emphasize an integrative, biocultural approach and focus on links among social and cultural processes, political and economic context, and human biology and health. We incorporate both theory and practice, using a diverse set of methods including biomarker collection and laboratory analysis, statistical modeling and computer simulation, anthropometry, osteology, ethnography, archaeology, and geographical analysis, to answer questions about what shapes human biology, behavior, livelihoods, and health from the cellular to societal levels. This focus is seen in the diverse research topics we explore including:

  • biological response to physical, environmental, and socio-economic stresses
  • environmental effects on health, growth, development, and reproduction
  • nutrition and health in the past and present
  • environmental causes and consequences of changes in livelihoods
  • impact of early life environments on health and disease
  • response of local communities to climate change and other global processes
  • physiological and cultural adaptation
  • disease ecology
  • human evolution
  • life history theory and evolutionary approaches to development
  • genetic and epigenetic approaches to health

Students in the HBEE program conduct research locally and globally into the factors shaping human health and livelihoods in the past and present. Recent student research projects include the investigation of: the dual impact of poor environmental quality and increasing overweight/obesity on child immune function in the Galapagos, Ecuador, the nutritional and health impacts of agriculture and state formation in the Bolivian highlands, sociocultural and psychosocial factors influencing infant feeding practices in the United States, smallholder adaptation to global change in Burkina Faso, impacts of conservation on livelihoods in Tanzania, and the nutritional and health consequences associated with European colonization of the North Carolina piedmont.

Faculty and students in HBEE collaborate with programs across the university including: the Carolina Population Center, Gillings School of Global Public Health, School of Medicine, the Curriculum in Ecology, the Center for Galapagos Studies, and the Curriculum in Global Studies.


Anthropology Majors can select from over 25 courses in the Human Biology, Ecology and Evolution program.

  • ANTH 050      FYS: Skeletons in the Closet
  • ANTH 053      FYS: Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
  • ANTH 123      Habitat and Humanity
  • ANTH 143      Human Evolution and Adaptation
  • ANTH 148      Human Origins
  • ANTH 238      Human Ecology of Africa
  • ANTH 298      Biological Anthropology Theory and Practice
  • ANTH 315      Human Genetics and Evolution
  • ANTH 317      Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Adaptation and Behavior
  • ANTH 318      Human Growth and Development
  • ANTH 319      Global Health
  • ANTH 412      Paleoanthropology
  • ANTH 414      Laboratory Methods: Human Osteology
  • ANTH 414L     Human Osteology Lab
  • ANTH 416      Bioarchaeology
  • ANTH 419      Anthropological Applications of GIS
  • ANTH 423      Written in Bone: CSI and the Science of Death Investigation
  • ANTH 437      Evolutionary Medicine
  • ANTH 439      Political Ecology
  • ANTH 446      Poverty, Inequality and Health
  • ANTH 459      Ecological Anthropology
  • ANTH 460      Historical Ecology
  • ANTH 490      Maternal and Child Health
  • ANTH 538      Disease and Discrimination: Poverty and Pestilence in Colonial Atlantic America
  • ANTH 539      Environmental Justice
  • ANTH 623      Human Disease Ecology
  • ANTH 639      Beyond the Tragedy of the Commons
  • ANTH 650      Reconstructing Life: Nutrition and Disease in Past Populations

Graduate Courses


  • ANTH 703     Core Course in Evolution and Ecology I
  • ANTH 704     Core Course in Evolution and Ecology II


  • ANTH 755     Seminar in Ecology and Population
  • ANTH 760     Seminar in Human Evolutionary Ecology
  • (Proposed)   Graduate Seminar in Human Biology


Public Programs

We plan to hold 1 – 2 public talks/workshops over the academic year on research topics we identify in our working group.   These talks would bring together scholars and students on campus as well as in the surrounding area for integrative discussion of key issues.


A Working Group

Evolution, Ecology and Health Working Group

Description: The working group provides the opportunity to explore the biological and cultural characteristics of human populations in the past and present from evolutionary and ecological perspectives.   We bring together faculty and students to develop scholarly interests in the interrelated areas of human ecology and evolution, growth and development, nutrition, health, and disease ecology questions listed above through talks, meetings and discussion.

A Foundation Graduate Course

A brief description of an introductory graduate seminar that sets students up for graduate projects in this area.

Anth 704: Evolution and Ecology Core